Health Library

Lifestyle Changes to Manage Sickle Cell Disease

Lifestyle changes will not cure sickle cell disease. However, they may reduce the number and severity of sickle cell crises.

General Guidelines for Managing Sickle Cell Disease

  • Eat a balanced diet, including folic acid supplements
  • Drink plenty of water
  • Avoid excessive exercise
  • Get lots of rest
  • During a sickle cell crisis
  • Rest in bed during sickle cell crisis
  • Avoid emotional and physical stress
  • Consider a support group
  • Avoid things that can worsen the condition or lead to infection
Eat a Balanced Diet, Including Folic Acid Supplements

Healthy foods can help overall health. They can help the body fight infections. Folic acid is very important in making red blood cells. This may reduce the impact of anemia.

Drink Plenty of Water

Low levels of fluid in the body make it easier for blood cells to clump together. This can lead to sickle cell crisis. Drinking at least 8 full glasses of water each day can help.

Avoid Excessive Exercise

Physical activity helps overall health and energy. But strenuous activity can be harmful. It can lower the amount of oxygen that is available in the body. This can raise the risk of a sickle cell crisis. A person should talk to their doctor about what kind of exercise is best.

Get Lots of Rest

All bodies need time to rest and recover. Rest helps improve health and the body's ability to fight infection.

During a Sickle Cell Crisis

It is important to know when to call the doctor. Certain symptoms need medical care. This includes symptoms such as a fever of 101°F (38.5°C) or higher.

Rest in Bed

A sickle cell crisis lowers how much oxygen the body gets. Being active increases the need for oxygen. Combined, this can lower the oxygen for the organs even more. It can lead to lasting tissue damage.

Bed rest during a sickle cell crisis can reduce this risk.

Avoid Physical and Emotional Stress

Physical and emotional stress seem to trigger sickle cell crisis. It helps to avoid stress, when possible. Relaxation skills can also help.

Consider a Support Group

Long term diseases can be very stressful. Support groups can be very helpful. People can learn or share coping skills with others who also have sickle cell disease.

Avoid Things That Can Worsen the Condition or Lead to Infection

Things that can start or worsen a crisis are:

  • Tobacco
  • Cocaine
  • Methamphetamines
  • Alcohol

Salmonella is bacteria that can make people ill. It can be more harmful in people with sickle cell disease. The risk may be lowered by:

  • Not keeping turtles, snakes, or lizards as pets
  • Thoroughly cooking chicken and eggs before eating


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Sickle cell disease. Kids Health—Nemours Foundation website. Available at: Accessed January 29, 2021.

Sickle cell disease in adults and adolescents. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: . Accessed March 4, 2021.

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